Mean Streets on DVD
Mean Streets, although widely regarded as one of the greatest movies of all
time, seems more like an older brother to movies like Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco,
and Once Upon a Time in America, films which took the gangster movie formula
and made it better.
The film is a semi-autobiographical tale about Martin Scorseses life
in New Yorks Little Italy, before he became a household name.
Harvey Keitel plays Charlie, a young man working his way through the ranks
of a local mob. His job basically consists of collecting money from the people
who owe his employer. But of course, not everybody is willing to pay, so things
tend to get a little ugly. It doesnt help that Charlie befriends Johnny
Boy (Robert De Niro), a bad seed whos a little crazy to boot. Charlie
has to keep getting Johnny Boy out of trouble, and keep himself out of trouble
at the same time.
If everything went smoothly, we wouldnt have much of a movie, now would
Mean Streets is the movie that put Scorsese on the map. Its a fine movie,
with some great direction and one of De Niros best performances to date
(and that is saying quite a bit). But having seen the aforementioned films prior
to the first viewing of Mean Streets, it just doesnt seem as good as them.
Granted, its a much lower budget, much older film whose flaws are probably
only visible to someone who is more of a modern movie buff than a classic movie
On the other hand, Mean Streets is much more intimate than any modern gangster
film. Charlie is in pretty much every scene, and there are no other characters
we really care too much about. And Charlies a decent guy; hes only
doing what he does because its his job. He tries to help people out whenever
he can. He just happens to be working for the mob, which in itself is not the
most honest of professions.
But however you feel about Mean Streets, you cant deny that it is a classic
that began the career of one of Hollywoods finest. Chances are youd
enjoy Scorseses definitive masterpiece, Goodfellas,
even more. However, if youre a fan of the genre, you wont find much
to complain about here.
While its advertised on the box as a special edition, the DVD of Mean
Streets isnt quite that. It looks great, it sounds pretty good, but the
extras are pretty slim. The picture is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen,
and despite the age and budget, everything looks surprisingly impressive. Color-wise,
the movie is pretty dull, but the picture is pretty sharp. Blacks are fairly
dark, but you can almost always make out the details. A few spots suffer from
intense grain, but it doesnt happen often enough to be a concern.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono, and it sounds good for what it is, but theres
too much going on for it to really be great. Theres plenty of dialogue,
music and sound effects all fighting for space, and during the scenes in which
theyre all prominent, its often the dialogue that s6uffers the most.
This is a disc that could have really used a 5.1 audio track, but it probably
wouldnt have been remastered that well, anyway.
Scorsese sorta provides an audio commentary for the film. He talks only during
a few select scenes, though, totaling about half an hour. He spends time discussing
the events that led to him making Mean Streets, but not a lot of time discussing
Mean Streets itself. When hes talking, he has some good stuff to say,
but there should have been a lot more there.
Back on the Block is a 7-minute vintage featurette that doesnt
really have much to say. It does, however, feature footage of Scorseses
mother and the childhood friends that inspired the film. Funny stuff.
Finally, we get the theatrical trailer.
Mean Streets, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
112 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel
Produced by Jonathan T. Taplin
Screenplay by Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin, Directed by Martin Scorsese
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